UN Trade Conference Should Set Foundations of Post-Crisis Development Consensus, Point Way to Equitable Globalization, Says Deputy Secretary-General in Message

23 April 2012

UN Trade Conference Should Set Foundations of Post-Crisis Development Consensus, Point Way to Equitable Globalization, Says Deputy Secretary-General in Message

23 April 2012
Deputy Secretary-General
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

UN Trade Conference Should Set Foundations of Post-Crisis Development Consensus,


Point Way to Equitable Globalization, Says Deputy Secretary-General in Message


Following are the remarks of Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, as delivered, to the opening ceremony of UNCTAD XIII, 21 April, in Doha:

It is a great pleasure to address this thirteenth Ministerial Conference of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).  Due to pressing commitments, the Secretary-General is unable to be here today, but he has asked me to convey his statement, which is as follows.

UNCTAD XIII takes place after a period of significant economic upheaval unprecedented in our lifetime.  The most severe financial crisis since the 1930s put an abrupt end to several years of accelerated growth, and vividly demonstrated the risks of deregulated financial markets.

While the crisis began in the most advanced economies, its effects were felt across the globe, and continue to undermine the development prospects of many of the poorest countries.  Since then, the recovery has been fragile at best, and pre-crisis growth continues to be out of reach in most countries.

Moreover, the crisis has clearly exposed the lack of inclusiveness of the preceding boom.  While the growth of the world economy since 2002 has generated important gains in income, the distribution of benefits was highly skewed, and inequality has reached new highs.

Since the turn of the millennium, some developing countries, particularly in Asia, have made significant strides in building their economies and reducing poverty.  However, the 48 least developed countries continue to face significant obstacles, and their share of global goods trade remains at just 1 per cent.  Progress towards the Millennium Development Goals has remained mixed.  Even in successful economies, the benefits of growth have not always generated new employment opportunities.  The pattern of “jobless growth” has meant that 6 per cent of the global labour force — 200 million people — remains unemployed.  For young people, this rate is more than twice as high.

The recent unrest in the Arab world has shown that a lack of economic opportunity and political voice, particularly among youth, is not sustainable.  Indeed, growing awareness of social injustice and inequality has also led to protests in several advanced countries.

It is, therefore, highly appropriate that this Conference take place in the Arab region, where rapid political transformations are creating new opportunities for development.  UNCTAD and the United Nations system will continue to support the Arab region’s efforts to achieve more inclusive and sustainable growth.

Beyond its economic effects, and perhaps most worryingly, the crisis is threatening to undermine efforts to address serious global challenges at a time when international cooperation is needed more than ever.  Multilateral efforts to formulate a sustained and coordinated response have yet to produce the desired outcomes.  Efforts to combat climate change have made some advances, but are still inadequate given the scope of the threat.  And the Doha Round of trade talks is stalemated after more than a decade of negotiations, depriving developing countries of trade benefits and market access opportunities in areas where they are most competitive.

This Conference is an opportunity to address all these concerns.  I see five principal challenges.  First, we must urgently identify the measures needed to restore growth in the global economy.  Inward-looking, “beggar thy neighbour” reactions must be prevented.  We must also help the most vulnerable countries deal with a crisis they did not create by ensuring that official development assistance (ODA) is not cut.

Second, UNCTAD XIII must examine the causes of the crisis, especially those of a systemic nature, and identify measures to prevent its recurrence.  Financial markets are not self-regulating.  Persistent trade imbalances, misaligned exchange-rates, and spikes in global food prices were the results of disruptive, speculative finance, aided by easy money.  National regulators acting alone cannot prevent excessive speculation without coordination at the international level.

The third challenge for UNCTAD’s members must be to identify trade and development policies that support our efforts to mitigate climate change.  Moving towards less carbon-intensive production processes will require a significant transformation of the world economy, which is likely to impose additional burdens on the developing countries and their legitimate development aspirations.

Innovative solutions in the areas of trade, investment and technology will be needed, along with supportive financial mechanisms.  UNCTAD XIII is, thus, well-positioned to contribute to a robust outcome to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.  Rio+20 is a generational opportunity, and we must make the most of it.

Fourth, the crisis has shown us that we still need to make globalization more inclusive.  Too many regions and communities remain marginalized.  UNCTAD’s high-level event on women and development at this Conference is an important addition to the inclusiveness agenda.  While often overlooked in aggregate statistics, women play a decisive role in the development process.  Investment in women’s capacities tends to benefit whole households and is closely related to improving prospects for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  We must do more to make trade and development policies more gender sensitive.

Fifth, we need to unlock the full potential of international business.  With so many countries desperate to create jobs, strengthen their technological capacities and build infrastructure, the role of transnational corporations, including through Foreign Direct Investment, can be critical.

Yet, this will not happen by itself.  I, therefore, welcome the World Investment Forum taking place as part of UNCTAD XIII, and the platform it offers for forging consensus on sustainable investment and the pursuit of responsible business practices.

You are gathered here to set the foundations of the post-crisis development consensus.  New policy ideas and bold action will be required.

UNCTAD’s universal membership, combined with its broad mandate covering trade, finance, investment, technology and sustainable development, make UNCTAD XIII a timely forum to chart the way forward.  A failure at this juncture could lead to a loss of trust, and undermine the legitimacy of globalization and its development promise.  Much is at stake.  But, with your collective effort, UNCTAD XIII can point the way towards a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable globalization that works for all the world’s people, and that enables us to build the future we want.  Thank you for your kind attention.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.